Ever since Ron Hextall returned to the Philadelphia Flyers as general manager, the team has been building through the draft. It’s a slow process, but one that could pay huge dividends in the ensuing years.
The Flyers sped up the process a bit with two smart signings to kick off free agency, the best one being the addition of right wing Dale Weise. He signed a four-year, $9.4 million contract with Philadelphia on Friday and will essentially replace the departed Ryan White in the lineup.
White had a breakout season, scoring 11 goals and 16 points while playing 12:34 minutes per game as a member of the Flyers’ fourth line, but he became expendable once Weise was available for Philadelphia. The two wings have a similar playing style except Weise has been more productive.
They are also the same age, so there was little incentive to keep White.
Weise scored 14 goals and 27 points in 14:21 minutes of ice time per contest over 71 games last season. Even with White’s career season in 2015-16, he only had 28 points in the last two years combined, just one more than Weise had last season.
The 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons have both been stellar for Weise, as he recorded at least 10 goals and 27 points each year while also averaging 136 hits per season. White was a real physical force this past season, but since 2014-15, he’s averaged just a few more body blows (158) than Weise.
The lone negative about Weise’s game is he didn’t finish last season very strongly. After 56 games in Montreal, the Canadiens traded him to the Chicago Blackhawks. In 19 games including the postseason, he had just one goal and two points with Chicago, but to be fair, he did play under nine minutes per game.
He should play a lot more in the Philadelphia lineup. Although Weise is essentially White’s replacement, it would be surprising to see Weise skate on the fourth line as White did.
With a $2.35 million average annual salary, the Flyers are likely hoping Weise can play second or third line minutes. If Philadelphia sustains several injuries, he has the talent to play on the top line too. This versatility is what made the 27-year-old a must-have player in the mind of Hextall.
“I think I can fit anywhere,” Weise said according to CSNphilly.com. “I fit in the top nine, maybe I’m kind of a middle-six guy. I can play in the top two lines if you need me, if there’s injuries, if you don’t have anyone else in line.
“I’m very comfortable playing on the third and fourth line. I think I can do a little bit of everything. That’s why the fit works so well with Philly.”
Weise also went on to say he believes given the right situation, 20 goals isn’t out of the question. Philadelphia would be happy if he records 10-15 each of his four years, but 20 next season would make him an absolute fantastic signing, and one that had to be done even if it meant losing the fan favorite White.
In a very underrated signing, Hextall also added center Boyd Gordon. Although Weise ultimately made White expendable, Gordon is the guy who is directly going to replace White as Philadelphia’s fourth-line center.
Gordon only had two goals and four points with Arizona last season and has just two 20-point seasons since 2007-08, but he is excellent in the faceoff circle. Gordon has a career faceoff percentage of 56.9 and won 57.8 percent of the faceoffs he took in 2015-16.
Philadelphia will likely use Gordon on defensive zone faceoffs a lot, particularly on the penalty kill, which is also something White use to do. White played a little bit on both the power play and penalty kill units. While Gordon will fill the penalty kill role, Weise can be a nice addition to the Flyers power play.
The Flyers will obviously continue building their roster through smart drafting, but adding versatility guys such as Weise will allow Philadelphia to compete in the meantime.